Flores Vies to Become Peru's First Female President
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Sunday's presidential election in Peru pits a female, pro-business conservative, against a leftist, former Army colonel. A former congresswoman is trying to become the second female president elected this year in Latin America.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has this profile.
(Soundbite of man yelling over crowd cheering)
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:
With her short, dark hair, round figure, and unassuming clothes, Lourdes Flores, can be overlooked at first glance.
(Soundbite of Lourdes Flores yelling over crowd cheering)
But when she strides out in front of the crowd and starts to speak, there is no doubt that this is a woman who wants to become Peru's next president. For her supporters, she is someone who comes from a strong political party. She has experience in solid programs, and she will lead Peru with a firm and steady hand. But for others, she has a distinct advantage over the candidates.
Mandelit Sandoval(ph) has come to see Flores speak with her mother and daughter.
Ms. MANDELIT SANDOVAL: (Through translator) I like her because she is a woman, and she's going to fight for all things that men have not done up until now. She has promised a lot, but I think she'll deliver because she speaks with sincerity.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Here at a rally in support of Lourdes Flores, the theme of female power is everywhere. The emcee for the evening is a man, in drag. Many of the performers are women, and instead of banners with slogans, people are waving color-coordinated balloons. Despite the feminine touches, Flores has had to soften her appeal. This white, pro-business former Congresswoman, who is single and childless, has been painted by those who don't like her as part of an uncaring elite here. At her closing rally, she sought to allay those fears.
Ms. LOURDES FLORES (Presidential Candidate, Peru): (Through translator) The change that we want to bring to Peru, is a change that must bring progress; a future, and opportunity. Well-off Peruvians, we will not resign ourselves to viewing poverty as part of the national scenery.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But some here are disillusioned with an economic plan that seems to them more of what the current president, Alejandro Toledo, has put in place. Despite over five percent growth here on the year, poverty has only been reduced a few percentage points overall.
Outside the rally, Raul Manuelo(ph) says he's going to vote for Ollanta Humala, the fiery populous leader who's promising to do away with free trade agreements with the United States.
Mr. RAUL MANUELO: (Through translator) I don't like Lourdes, because she comes from a traditional party that has not been successful in this country. Also, she has surrounded herself with people who are only interested in commercial interests.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The latest polls show that Flores will most probably make it to the second round of the elections, where she will square off with either Humala or former president, Alan Garcia. Women's rights activist Diana Miloslavich says that already, though, her politics aside, Flores is making history in Peru.
Ms. DIANA MILOSLAVICH (Women's Rights Activist, Peru): (Through translator) The fact that people can see that a woman can reach such an important post, like the presidency of the republic, contributes to the collective security and identity of women. It shows that women are not just about raising children, but taking on greater responsibility. It's a stimulus.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Latin America, as a whole, has been taking strides to involve women in politics for a while now. In Peru, since 1998, 30 percent of all candidates for elected positions have to be women. That's meant that 18 percent of this past Congress was female.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Lima, Peru.
INSKEEP: You can find profiles of Peru's Presidential candidates at npr.org.
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